Over the past few months, my colleague at Christ Reformed Church, Ken Samples, has been teaching about suffering in the Christian life. As a textbook for his Sunday school class, he has recommended When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes.
I have been reading through it and so far have found it to be quite good. Here is a quote to share, playing off Paul’s words in Phil 3:10 which reads, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
“All I care for is to know Christ,” Paul wrote.
Yes, we say in our best moments; we want the same. Life is happiest when we’re on good terms with our Maker.
“All I care for is … to experience the power of his resurrection.”
Absolutely! Bring it on. We want to rise about our circumstances just like he rose from the dead. We could use a good soul-scrubbing. Heaven knows the help we need to wrestle down our vices. We all want to do better.
“All I care for is … to share in his sufferings.”
Uh, wait. Perhaps the apostle overstates himself a bit. We don’t actually want a share of sufferings, Christ’s or anybody else’s. On further thought, however, we grant that hard times in moderate doses can be a good tonic for the soul. This topic of suffering, no doubt, is an important part of Christian living that we all should know more about. Just keep the heat down to a manageable level.
“All I care for is … growing conformity with his death.”
What? Becoming like Christ in his death? we ask. As in martyrdom by crucifixion? As in living death where we “carry our cross” and God slowly wrenches from us everything we hold dear? You mean likeness to Christ’s death as in being force-fed things I don’t want while wanting things I don’t have? Having suffering shoveled down my throat by God-who-says-he-loves-me? Ugh!
When God Weeps, pg. 26.
This is indeed an interesting illustration of how the call to suffer sounds to our ease-loving ears. Oh that God might work confidence and trust in our hearts as we learn to embrace the suffering to which he has called us. This is a tough subject to be sure, but one that is eminently practical and one that believers ought to reflect upon with great care.
Christ Reformed Church